Herb: Low Milkweed
Latin name: Asclepias pumila
Family: Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)
Medicinal use of Low Milkweed:An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, the remedy can be given to children.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Sandy, clayey or rocky calcareous or gypseous soils of prairies.
Edible parts of Low Milkweed:The following reports refer to other members of this genus and are possibly also appropriate for this species. Unopened flower buds - cooked. They taste somewhat like peas. They are used like broccoli. Flowers and young flower buds - cooked. Used as a flavouring and a thickener in soups etc. The flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup. The flowers are harvested in the early morning with the dew still on them. When boiled up it makes a brown sugar. Young shoots - cooked. An asparagus substitute. They should be used when less than 20cm tall. A slightly bitter taste. Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach. Young seed pods, 3 - 4 cm long, cooked. They are very appetizing. Best used when about 2 - 4cm long and before the seed floss forms, on older pods remove any seed floss before cooking them. If picked at the right time, the pods resemble okra. The sprouted seeds can be eaten. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The latex in the stems is made into a chewing gum. It is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields are higher on dry soils.
Other uses of the herb:The following reports refer to other members of this genus and are possibly also appropriate for this species. A good quality fibre is obtained from the bark, used in making twine, cloth, paper etc. It is of poor quality in wet seasons. It is easily harvested in late autumn after the plant has died down by simply pulling the fibres off the dried stems. The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth. It is a Kapok substitute, used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material. Very water repellent, it can yield up to 550 kilos per hectare. The floss has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea. Candlewicks can be made from the seed floss. Rubber can be made from latex contained in the leaves and the stems. It is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields are higher on dry soils. Pods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance. The seed contains up to 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. It is also used in making liquid soap.
Propagation of Low Milkweed:Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in late winter. We have also had good results from sowing the seed in the greenhouse in early spring, though stored seed might need 2 - 3 weeks cold stratification. Germination usually takes place in 1 - 3 months at 18°C. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out when they are in active growth in late spring or early summer and give them some protection from slugs until they are growing away strongly. Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and place them in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly, then plant them out in the summer, giving them some protection from slugs until they are established. Basal cuttings in late spring. Use shoots about 10cm long with as much of their white underground stem as possible. Pot them up individually and place them in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until they are rooting and growing actively. If the plants grow sufficiently, they can be put into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in the greenhouse until the following spring and when they are in active growth plant them out into their permanent positions. Give them some protection from slugs until they are established.
Cultivation of the herb:Sandy, clayey or rocky calcareous or gypseous soils of prairies.
Known hazards of Asclepias pumila:Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. This species is said to be poisonous to livestock.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.